Remembering Ricky Keller

Thursday July 3, 2003 12:04 am EDT

Last Wednesday, the pews of the First United Methodist Church in Decatur were jammed with Atlanta music veterans. At the memorial for late multi-instrumentalist/producer Ricky Keller, 51, the capacity crowd heard nearly two hours of testimonies to Keller's career and personal life. The musician was a major presence in the Atlanta music community from the late '70s until his death June 21.

A virtual who's who of the '70s/'80s Atlanta music scene turned out to pay their respects, including Brendan O' Brien, Jeff Calder, Tinsley Ellis, Derek Trucks, Glenn Phillips, David Michaelson, and Mark and Clay Harper.

There were plenty of emotional recountings of Keller's philanthropy and encouragement — tales of how he nurtured the careers of fellow producer/musician Brendan O'Brien, drummer Sonny Emory, Aquarium Rescue Unit alum Oteil Burbridge, Yonrico Scott and more.

Since the early '80s, Keller has owned and operated the busy Southern Living at its Finest recording studio. His mid-'80s LPs with Bruce Hampton's Late Bronze Age were recently reissued on CD from Atlanta's Terminus Records. The second release from Project Z, featuring Jimmy Herring of the Dead and drummer Jeff Sipe, and a collection from ethereal pop songwriter Kyra are among material that will be released posthumously. Other Keller collaborators include OutKast, Papa Roach, Train, Korn, Stone Temple Pilots and Bonnie Raitt.

"So many people who have seen and done as much as Ricky are jaded about the whole thing," says drummer David Michaelson of the Satellites and the Blue Velvets. "He was the extreme opposite of that. He took a genuine interest in every band he worked with. He made each person he met feel important and that's really rare."

Keller is survived by his wife, Carole, and their daughter, Rebecca G. Keller. A Ricky Keller memorial fund has been created to benefit Rebecca's education and expenses. Donations will be accepted in her name at the Decatur branch of Bank of America.

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